Handling the twists and turns in your fitness (and your life) - The Stockdale Paradox
If you know me very well, you know one of the ways I like to recharge and renew is in the saddle of my motorcycle.
My wife Susan and I were out for a ride the other day trying to blow the cobwebs off the news, trials and tribulations of the moment we are in.
We were on a nice, challenging, twisty road when I got hit with an epiphany (it might have been a potato beetle, I'm not sure):
Taking some of those tricky curves on a motorcycle is a lot like trying to negotiate our lives, businesses and relationships during this pandemic crisis. There are some lessons and examples to learn about this pandemic crisis that relate to successfully taking a twisty on a motorcycle.
Be Alert and Aware
When you are approaching a curve, you first have to be very aware of your situation and conditions. Too fast and you crash. Not paying attention to the road, you crash. Too slow ... getting out of the curve is difficult at best, treacherous at worst.
You always slow down as you approach the curve so you can get ready for what is to come. Check all the moving parts and get ready for what is to come.
Take the Curve with Confidence - Lean In!
Once you know you're ready, lean in and trust your awareness, preparation and machine will carry you into and through the curve.
Accelerate at the Apex
This is where it gets fun... and technical. Right when to curve is at its most, well, curvy, accelerate out of it. If done properly, you come out of the curve faster and more upright than you went in.
Come Out on the Other Side
That exhilaration and sense of accomplishment that you successfully negotiated the challenge!
The situation we find ourselves right now is like a treacherous curve. And sometimes feels like we don't know when we are going to hit the apex and come out on the other side. But, you know what, we always do. During this time, some things may have slipped a little. Relationships, diet, working out. But if you apply those same principals, you can and will come out on the other side faster, stronger and more balanced.
That is exactly what we are doing here at 614Fitness and what we are trying to help each of our member athletes do:
The Stockdale Paradox:
The Stockdale Paradox is a concept that was popularized by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great. It was named after James Stockdale, former vice-presidential candidate. Who, during the Vietnam War, was held captive as a prisoner of war for over seven years. He was one of the highest-ranking naval officers at the time.
The main gist of the idea is that you need to balance realism with optimism.
In paradox we often find some of the greatest bits of wisdom. The difficulty in understanding a paradox comes from the fact that when it's heard as a maxim in some kind of verbal form, it is contradictory and not intuitively grasped. This said, paradoxes are best understood through experience.
Collins describes this paradoxical concept through the experience of James Stockdale, and his survival as a prisoner of war.
During this horrific period, Stockdale was repeatedly tortured and had no reason to believe he'd make it out alive. Held in the clutches of the grim reality of his hell world, he found a way to stay alive by embracing both the harshness of his situation with a balance of healthy optimism.
Stockdale explained this idea as the following: "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."
In the most simplest explanation of this paradox, it's the idea of hoping for the best, but acknowledging and preparing for the worst.
We all want things to workout for ourselves. We want to be successful, happy, and have achieved something no matter how trivial or personal it may be. For instance, we want to lose weight and get in shape, and going to the gym is one way to accomplish that.
Reaching this state of accomplishment isn't going to come just by positive visualization. That's all well and good and it makes us feel nice. It's why so many people fall into the trap of the next best quick fix, miracle diet or magic pill.
The Stockdale paradox tells us that no matter how dire our circumstances may seem, faith and perseverance will bring us out on the other side a better version of ourselves. To get back to a fitness analogy,... ever feel like you just couldn't complete one more round of a particularly challenging exercise, but found, once completed, you were utterly exhausted and thoroughly energized at the same time?
Be both an optimist and a realist.
It's going to be hard. We're going to struggle. We can't always see the apex of the curve. But prepare and lean in so that when that apex comes, and it will, you'll hit the throttle and come out of the curve taller, stronger and better than before!
Here's to your health!